Where’s the Money, Julian Hoeber

The history of horror cinema is a complicated web of socio-political narratives combined with the limitations and innovations of filmmaking itself. What Julian Hoeber’s Where’s the Money (playing now on MOCAtv) suggests is that there is a direct correlation with money (i.e. the budget) with the representation and association of the real (in low budget horror films). And that’s an interesting idea. But because Hoeber’s piece is an frenetic and cursory analysis of horror film, it doesn’t really take us where we need to go by diving deeply or succinctly enough into the very important commentary that can associate horror cinema with the real (whatever that really means).

Where’s the Money skips decades quickly, omitting many films in-between that are certainly part of the evolution of the genre; from Freaks to Scream back to Last House on the Left with a curious inclusion of Fulci’s Zombi. Here horror comes off as second-rate, like a bad video-taped porno flick, rather than embodying its position as a vital component to cinema that allows uncomfortable subject matter to be approached and eviscerated right before our very eyes. I find the idea of associating horror with low culture problematic; it’s not merely about economics but the outbursts of social issues that stem from money, and, subsequently, labor and power that makes horror such a potent genre.

What I’m saying is that horror film is infinitely more complex that what’s presented here and that the notion of economy plays out in horror more fluidly than merely in the way in which it’s created. The provocation of money and the real presented in Where’s the Money would have been better served by a narrower focus. For instance, many thinkers associate Eli Roth’s Hostel (2005) as a manifestation of 9/11 Gitmo torture scenarios back upon unwitting American tourists in Eastern Europe. However what’s really at play is the idea of economy and power. There are only two Americans in the whole film, the rest of the people being killed or doing the killing are from all over the world. That film isn’t about “torture and America” but about a globalized system of exchange and an examination of values. Exploring this faction of Hostel (which was not a low-budget film) or in recent films like Land of the Dead or We Are What We Are or even Hitchcock’s Psycho, Where’s the Money could have taken a more measurable stance about how money influences the decisions we make and how horror evaluates those choices.

Night of New Horror at Nitehawk

Last Tuesday was a night of celebrating new horror at Nitehawk Cinema and I was thrilled to be a part of it. First, Incognitum Hactenus held a part for the release Living On: Zombies (Vol. 3) with “undead soul” tunes by Dave Tompkins and Jim Shaw’s film The Hole. Then we screened three films I curated (based on video and found footage) by Darren Banks before the New York premiere of Magnolia Picture’s new horror anthology V/H/S. And lastly, we presented Banks’ amazing “tech gone wrong” montage for the after-party. To relive the event, check out the pics…

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Open Call for Submission: Historical Trauma

The fourth issue of Incognitum Hactenus will be published in connection with my exhibition On the Desperate Edge of Now at Dumbo Arts Center (New York) in Feburary 2013. There will be an online version and printed catalogue version of this issue. We are seeking contributions that deal with ghosts, history, the cinematic, cultural memory, historical trauma, and the conflation of time.

On the Desperate Edge of Now explores historical trauma, collective cultural experience, and personal memory as represented in contemporary visual art and horror film. Titled after the first episode of British filmmaker Adam Curtis’ 1994 BBC documentary The Living DeadOn the Desperate Edge of Now positions the construction of memory as a coping mechanism for both the individual and an international public. Expanding the notion of “horror” to include a more philosophical context of understanding the world, this exhibition employs horror cinema as a structural guide to locate the ever-present now. Through an adoption of Gilles Deleuze and Henri Bergson’s notion of the now as an “ever shifting amalgam of past, present, and future”, On the Desperate Edge of Now aims to evoke a haunting at DUMBO Arts Center in February 2013. Artists: Heather Cantrell, Folkert de Jong, Joachim Koester, and Marnie Weber.

Open call: if you are interested in contributing to On the Desperate Edge of Now please send a 200 word abstract to both editors: tom.trevatt@hotmail.com and caryn@caryncoleman.com. Please note that not all submissions will be accepted for publication.

Image: Folkert de Jong, Operation Harmony (2008)

Living On: Zombies Release Party

The journal I co-edit is having a release party in New York for our latest issue, Living On: Zombies


Tuesday, October 2 from 7 – 9pm
Nitehawk Cinema (cafe)

Pre-party for the 9:30pm NY premiere of V/H/S (new horror anthology film released by Magnolia Pictures)

Screening: Jim Shaw’s The Hole (2007)
Spinning: “Undead Soul” by Dave Tompkins

Special horror cocktail: the Corpse Reviver
Stuff: Free digital copies of Living On: Zombies | check out books by contributors 

Thanks to Magnolia PicturesNitehawk CinemaBlonde Art BooksDarren BanksDave Tompkins, and all of our contributors!

Afterlifers: Walking and Talking

As we’re currently in production for Living On: Zombies (the third volume of Incognitum Hactenus in which we make the position to re-contextualize, consider, and represent the zombie figure), I have zombies on the brain. And this 2004 film Afterlifers: Walking and Talking by Halflifers (artists Torsten Zenas Burns and Anthony M. Discenza) fits the bill, addressing the post-culture life after the pop-culture knowledge of the zombie. 

Particularly interesting is their notion of “zombie architecture” or “zombie space”  – a existing zone where people and objects “become zombie” – in relation to Shaviro’s term “zombie time” in his “Contagious Allegories” where he says:

The slow meanders of zombie time emerge out of the conventional time of progressive narrative. This strangely empty temporality also corresponds to a new way of looking, a vertiginously passive fascination. The usual relation of audience to protagonist is inverted. Instead of the spectator projecting him-or-herself into the actions unfolding on the screen, an on-screen characters lapses into a quasi-spectatorial position. This is the point at which dread slips into obsession, the moment when unfulfilled threats turn into seductive promises. Fear becomes indistinguishable from an incomprehensible, intense, but objectless craving.

In considering a zombie-space and zombie-time we perhaps might tap into the way in which these narratives fold in on themselves, addressing the fear of the viewer while also basing this fear on an acknowledged fiction. Unable to speak or articulate, the zombie has become the language we use to address the unspeakable: this craving, this need for representation. 

The work of Torsten Zenas Burns is currently on view at the Dumbo Arts Center in Brooklyn.

Incognitum Hactenus – Call for submissions

Living On: Zombies

Incognitum Hactenus is re-thinking the zombie.

The release of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in 1968 solidified our cultural awareness of what a zombie was and marked the beginning of the zombie film as a staple of Hollywood storytelling. Now a (regenerative) genre unto itself, the zombie movie invariably sees a band of survivors escaping from hordes of the undead, re-animated corpses limping mindlessly across desolated, post-apocalyptic landscapes that used to be our homes. Defined in part as a response to late capitalism, the zombie has come to represent humanity’s mindless consumerism, as in Romero’s second, and genre defining zombie movie Dawn of the Dead (1978), religious zealotry, the end of civilization, anxiety about our reliance on corporate medicine’s experimentation, 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later (2002 & 2007), conservative America’s racism, homophobia or general bigotry and so on.

In the next issue of Incognitum Hactenus – Living On: Zombies – we want to think beyond this narrow category to a beyond, to a realm of post-contemporaneity where the zombie, instead of being a figure of Romantic critique, is seen in a new light. This will be a double-death, the Romantic Zombie dies to make way for the Post-Contemporary Zombie. It is our claim that a rethinking of the zombie in this way produces new languages that can talk about, amongst other things, art beyond the current moment. Post-contemporary art and the Post-Contemporary Zombie stumble hand in hand into a new world. Happy writing.

Open call: if you are interested in contributing to Living On: Zombies please send a 200 word abstract to both editors: tom.trevatt@hotmail.com and caryn@caryncoleman.com. Please note that not all submissions will be accepted for publication.

Cry Me a River: Darren Banks’ I’m sure if there were a monster in the midlands we would have seen it on the telly

For the Gods and Monsters issue of Incognitum Hactenus, I wrote the following text on Darren Banks’ 2011 video piece I’m sure if there were a monster in the midlands we would have seen it on the telly. Watch the video here. 

Cry Me a River: Darren Banks’ I’m sure if there were a monster in the midlands we would have seen it on the telly

Sweeping aerial shots, panoramic images of rivers and lakes, and close-ups that push outward towards barren landscapes, Darren Banks’ I’m sure if there were a monster in the midlands we would have seen it on the telly shows nearly every possible way of looking and experiencing the forest as a literal outsider. It is an examination of non-places, obscure in their absence of the human, begging the questions: What lurks beneath? Who is hiding in the shadows? Why is this nothingness so frightful? In this world abandoned by people, I’m sure if… becomes a cinematic spectral space in its depiction of the world without us but a site where our fears are still very much present.

The conglomeration of numerous outdoor scenes from horror movies in I’m sure if there were a monster in the midlands we would have seen it on the telly establishes a singular, large-scale, atmospheric landscape; a filmic version of Frankenstein’s monster through sourcing the benign body parts from Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971), The Burning (1981), Antichrist (2009), and The Wicker Man (1973) amongst nearly twenty others. Further referencing horror history, Banks gleans the title from the hospital sequence in John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London (1981) in which the doctor refuses the boy’s claims that a wolf has attacked him saying that if it were true then it would be on television. Banks therefore positions our culture’s submissive reliance on media sources to collectively prove/disprove facts and fictions above our ability to trust our inherent knowledge of the world. Allegorically this gets to the heart of “man” in that desire to rely on our instincts while maintaining to control the sleeping animal/monster buried within each of us (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and George A. Romero’s Dead series).

However, any literal representation of the “monster” is denied in Banks’ version. The “telly” is not proving to us that it exists. Instead, the figure of the “monster” is implied strictly through the landscape and through the omission of any human presence or any significant action. These multiple and disparate landscapes are at once peaceful and foreboding, familiar (through the recognition of films) and strange (a world for us, but not with us). Therefore, while we don’t see anything or anyone we can still sense that something is amiss. Whom or what can we trust? Visualizing this liminal boundary between a place of sanctuary and terror through the manipulation of media sources (and Banks does this throughout his body of work) he establishes a productive tension. This tension works precisely because the concealed yet explicit absence constructed through television, film, and music ultimately becomes a revelation of the unrepresented.

I’m sure if there were a monster in the midlands we would have seen it on the telly subscribes to influential producer Val Lewton’s theory that the simplest suggestion of horror onscreen will ignite the audience’s imagination to conjure up something far more horrific than could ever be physically represented. Think of Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Like any good old-fashioned horror narrative, Banks’ video relies on editorial selection, suggestion, and sound to cultivate the necessary and desired feeling of dread within the viewers. This visual journey through the “midlands” is a guided one where the framework Banks employs allows us to be privy to this world, experiencing it through his exacting means, but ultimately at a safe distance.

Incognitum Hactenus: new journal on art, horror, and philosophy

I am thrilled to announce that the first issue of the new quarterly journal Incognitum Hactenus (edited by Tom Trevatt and myself) is now available! Download it here.

Incognitum Hactenus is a new quarterly journal featuring writing on art, horror, and philosophy. Conceived as an ongoing investigation into each sphere and its crossovers, the journal publishes new work by leading international scholars, artists, filmmakers, curators, musicians, and designers. With a focused interest in that which finds an affiliation with horrific contemporaneity and the exposure to radical thought, Incognitum Hactenum reveals the twisting of contingency (that which comes from outside) as it produces new monstrosities. We aim to tear asunder the fleshy belly of the established and expected.

Volume 1.1 “Real Horror” of Incognitum Hactenum includes texts and artwork by Amanda Beech, Simon Clark, Carl Neville, Ben Rivers, Steven Shaviro, and Ben Woodard that were produced in conjunction with The Real Horror Symposium last October in London.

Please visit the website to download the first issue and to learn about the journal.

We hope that you enjoy and participate in these new strains of discussion as we celebrate the present, past, and future of art, horror, and philosophy!